Text: U.S. Thanks Japan for Support after Terrorist "Barbarism"

Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Howard H. Baker, Jr.
at Japanese Observance Ceremony for Victims of Terrorism in the U.S.

September 23, 2001, Tokyo

The French philosopher Diderot wrote, "From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step." Last week we saw that step taken by an evil and inhuman group of men who, with their own dreadful and twisted purposes overriding universally accepted standards of morality and decency, snuffed out the lives of thousands of innocent souls, injured many more and wreaked havoc on the peaceful livelihood of people from all over the world.

The international community has not been the same since they took their fateful step to barbarism, and September 11 will now be known as a horrible defining date in history. Few people will forget where they were when they first learned of the calamities in New York and Washington. It was like a nightmare from which we all wished to awake.

But in the face of such evil, and while the sight of the World Trade Center's destruction is indelibly printed in our memory, there were many other images of courage and compassion that far outshined those evil deeds. We have all read of the brave firefighters who rushed to the rescue of people, ignoring the imminent peril, even death that awaited many of them. Total strangers took the injured and wounded into their homes and offices. These are a few among the countless examples of people reaching out to help others.

But it not just the American people who have responded to this outrage. People all over the world recognized this act as an attack not just on the United States but on enlightened, civilized societies everywhere. It was a strike against those values that separate us from animals-compassion, tolerance, mercy. It was a strike against the democratic governments. It was a strike against innocent children, Christians and Muslims, rich and poor, American citizens and visitors from other lands-against all of humankind. And, the response from people in every country has been overwhelming.

Before I came to Tokyo I had heard of the Japanese people's legendary kindness. Every night as I leave the embassy, I pass by dramatic evidence of this. In front of the embassy gate is a small table with two books for people to sign. Every day Japanese have lined up to write down their thoughts, leave flowers and pray for the victims. It has been an incredibly moving sight.

The other day, while Buddhist priests chanted and struck their drums, several young mothers with tiny babies strapped to their backs patiently waited behind an elderly white-haired woman bent over with age. In the other line a group of middle-aged businessmen in dark suits and ties was followed by young students. This scene has been repeated day after day. On behalf of the American people I thank the people of Japan for this stunning display of support.

It is difficult to restrain one's emotions when you read their words or review the items left behind. Of course, there are Japanese and American flags, but on one T-shirt saying "I Love New York" was the message "Walk together, Talk together." A small toy bear was propped up on one of the tables. "We share your pain," was another comment. One person left a touching note along with his flowers describing his experience when he was an exchange student years ago and visited New York. He went to the top of the World Trade Center tower, he wrote, to see the sun go down over the city. As the evening lights came on, the city was transformed into a sight that he will never forget. And, regrettably, never see again. He reminisced about the kindness his American host family showed him and the happiness he experienced in America. The despicable criminals who perpetrated these acts clearly wanted to put an end to such constructive people-to-people programs that promote international good will and mutual understanding. But our good friends in Japan who line up every day in front of the embassy are voting in their own way against this terrible purpose.

There is no room for terrorism in our societies today, and we must all join forces to take the steps that will eradicate it. Backed by strong popular support in their various countries, political and religious leaders in every corner of the globe have communicated their support to President Bush and the American people for whatever initiatives will remove this cancer from our international body.

But this is not a time to dwell on retribution. I prefer to conclude by striking a more optimistic note. Someday we will put this horror behind us and look ahead to a world where fanaticism is only a memory and where tolerance prevails. I would like to see a future where all young children can grow up and enjoy a peaceful life free of fear and hatred.